Breakfast: The when, what and how much!
The standard workout breakfast
If weight loss isn’t your goal, start your day as usual. Have a balanced breakfast (include each main food group, plenty of whole grains and cereals and some fruit) no later than one hour before your workout. Failing this, you could have a banana (or another fruit or low-GI option) or a protein bar, plus a fruit juice 20–30 minutes prior. Just make sure you leave 20 minutes for your tummy to empty before you start exercising.
Additionally, you should take a water bottle with diluted fruit juice to sip during workouts; if this isn’t possible just take water. But bear in mind that diluted fruit juice is a great natural replenishment drink.
The fat-burning breakfast
If you’re aiming to shed some body fat, your start to the day will be a little different. Ideally, you should do your morning fat-burners before breakfast. Not only is your metabolic rate at its highest, but the body seems to use fuels better in the cold. Furthermore, by not providing the body with easy fuels (carbohydrates) you will burn fat instead.
If you feel lightheaded during a workout, take a diluted juice drink along with you to sip in between sips of water, or have a banana before you go. Remember to always take water! If you have any difficulties with exercise always seek medical advice before continuing.
Lastly, don’t be tempted to skip your breakfast afterwards. Your body will work best for you if you look after it. You must have a healthy and balanced breakfast within 20–30 minutes after your workout to allow your body to recover and to improve its ability to use energy stored in your body.
Keep up with your activity; fit people burn fat more efficiently so not only will you naturally use up stored fat, but you will get fitter.
Myths and Facts
Skipping breakfast slows weight loss
TRUE: Research shows that if you eat breakfast you’re more likely to lose weight and keep it off than if you skip brekkie. Breakfast eaters don’t appear to consume more calories, and those who don’t skip this important meal are more inclined to exercise. It’s also likely that eating breakfast reduces inappropriate food choices, which tend to happen when we are hungry. So as you can see, as well as being a good nutritional start to the day for improved energy, a healthy breakfast is a must.
Exercising in the morning is the best time for burning fat
TRUE: This is true as your metabolic rate is highest in the morning; however, it is not always convenient for everyone to train then – the main point is to exercise regularly!
Excess sugar turns to fat
FALSE: Strictly speaking, this does not happen easily in the body. In fact, too much sugar from food or alcohol prevents you from using stored fuel (fat). Sugar is the body’s preferred form of fuel so providing it with lots reduces your chances of using fat stores. You should balance out your carbohydrates, eat whole grains, adequate fibre and protein at each meal to feel full for longer.
You should food combine (avoiding carbs before lunch and not eating them with protein)
FALSE: Our bodies need an intake of all nutrients throughout the 24-hour period; consequently, we should consume a healthy balance of as many nutrients as possible each meal.
Protein-containing foods make you feel full
TRUE: In fact, protein is known as the satiety nutrient. Simply, this means it is the food that tells you that you are full and to stop eating. Carbs have a weak satiety effect and alcohol and fat very little, if any at all. That’s one reason why including protein in your meals is so important.
7 simple things you can do to improve your diet
1. Ensure you eat a variety of foods
Eating a wide variety of foods will increase the nutrients you gain from your diet and decrease the percentage of ‘inappropriate’ foods.
Do you eat …
- Different coloured fruit and vegetables each day?
- Eat wholegrain breads and cereals?
- Try new recipes?
- Eat out at a variety of restaurant types?
2. Reduce your saturated fats to 6–10% of total caloric intake
The Health Department strongly recommends we reduce our saturated fat intake to 10% (currently it is at around 17%).
Do you …
- Use 100% virgin cold-pressed olive oil?
- Trim your meats before cooking?
- Limit your intake of takeaways to treats?
- Remove the skin from chicken?
- Use yoghurt instead of sour cream?
- Use vegetable-based or low-fat spreads?
- Avoid sauces and creamy meals?
- Limit the number of fatty foods in a meal?
- Use low-fat ice-cream?
- Use low-fat dairy products or reduce intake?
3. Increase the fresh foods in your day
An easy way to increase the quality and quantity of nutrients in your diet is to consume more fresh foods. You should replace processed foods with fresh alternatives. Fresh produce is higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Research also supports the many health benefits from raw plant foods that still are not able to be synthesised in the laboratory.
Do you …
- Include fresh vegetables in all dinners?
- Limit or avoid frozen meals?
- Limit your reliance on canned foods?
NB: Some frozen produce has equal or in some cases greater nutritional value than some ‘fresh’ produce.
4. Eat whole food varieties
Choose breads, cereals and meals with whole grains, seeds, nuts etc. over refined varieties.
Do you …
- Choose wholegrain breads?
- Use brown rice when possible?
- Drink soy made from ‘whole soy beans’?
- Eat high-fibre cereals made from grains?
- Use yoghurts that are made naturally and have no added sugar?
5. Balance out the large nutrients
Balancing out the proportions of carbohydrate, protein and fat as well as actual meal size is important for satiety (feeling full) and health.
Do you …
- Ensure that you include roughly a palm-size serving of protein on a plate? This should represent 1/3 of your proportion of food for the meal (unless otherwise required)
- Fill ½ of the remaining plate with carbohydrate sources (pasta, rice, potato, cereal, noodles etc.)?
- Add an extra-large serving (as much as you can eat) of produce (vegetables)?
- Avoid adding fat? It is not required under normal circumstances as it will already be present in these foods.
6. Choose healthy low-fat and/or vegetarian sources of protein
Protein initiates the body to tell the brain that you are full. Without it we can over-consume and feel unsatisfied after a meal. We also make our worst meal decisions when we are hungry.
Do you …
- Ensure you eat trim meats (turkey, chicken, lamb or beef) or combinations of plant proteins?
- Eat fish 2–3 times a week?
- If vegetarian, eat at least two of the following combinations: eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, low-fat cheese, grains, seaweed, sprouts, hummus, and miso?
7. Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods
A high-fibre diet is related to reduced blood lipids and reduced incidence of colon cancer. Fibre also binds to fat to lower blood cholesterol, and feeds our intestinal cells to keep them healthy.
Do you …
- Consume your required servings of fruit/vegetables a day?
- Use whole grains?
This information has been provided by Leanne Cooper from Sneakys baby and child nutrition. Leanne is a qualified nutritionist and mother of two very active boys.
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